Coach lauds trophy-hunting Portsmouth Valkyries
Portsmouth Valkyries are determined to produce a grandstand finish to their campaign.
The Norway Road outfit still have a shot at league and cup honours.
They have reached the semi-finals of the RFU Women’s Junior Cup and are currently top of National Challenge South East west division one.
In the cup, Battersea Ironsides will travel to Rugby Camp on Sunday, March 25 with the winners going through to the final.
Assistant coach Mark Whitcher believes a final would be just reward for the Valkyries’ efforts.
He said: ‘A cup final would be the icing on the cake. The girls deserve nothing less for all their hard work.
‘We know the semi will be tough because Battersea are third in their league at the equivalent level as us.
‘It should be a great spectacle, though, and we are hoping for a good crowd to get behind the girls.
‘Our squad has made massive progress this season after being promoted at the end of the last campaign.
‘It is not just in numbers but also in the type and standard of rugby played. Their skill-sets have improved immeasurably.
‘The girls have really bought into what we are trying to do and now they are starting to reap the rewards.
‘The players who were at the top of their game have remained there and those who maybe were not so skilful at the start of the season have really come through.
‘We are also seeing good development within the Amazons – a second team which we started this season.’
Whitcher feels special praise must go to captain Naomi Spencer-Smith whose season has been spoiled by injury.
Despite this she has always given fantastic support from the sidelines.
‘Naomi has done a lot to hold the team together,’ added Whitcher.
Other leading lights include number eight Sophie Roman, hooker Alice Kightly and scrum-half Charlie Morgan.
The latter took over the captaincy from Spencer-Smith and has grown into the job.
The strong centre partnership of Claire Stopard-Baker and Georgie Outhwaite has also been a feature of the team’s success.
Before the cup semi-final, the Valkyries face a crucial league game against London Welsh.
Early in the season the Richmond-based team inflicted a heavy 56-0 defeat on the Valkyries.
‘The girls are relishing the chance to play London Welsh again,’ said Whitcher of the possible winner-takes-all clash.
‘It seems likely they will come to us in the final league game three points in front.
‘We feel we are a better team than when we first met.
‘This game will show just how far we have come.’